When we think of heart health many of us think it’s something we need to worry about ‘later’. We aren’t always thinking about heart attack and stroke prevention. But we should be. We should all be.
Heart disease is still the second leading cause of death in Canada and the leading cause of hospitalization. The good news is that The Heart & Stroke Foundation estimates that over 80% of all heart disease and strokes can be prevented through healthy behaviour changes. So whether you are concerned about yourself, your parents, or a friend, we should all be doing what we can to help one another live a life with a healthy heart.
The adult human heart is a muscle about the size of your two hands clasped together and it weighs about 9 -12 oz. It beats 100,000 times a day and pumps blood through 96,000km of vessels throughout the body. This organ works tirelessly to keep us alive and never gets a break!
What Can We Do to Take Care of Our Heart Health?
Let’s start with the basics: stress management, exercise, and a healthy diet.
Stress wreaks havoc on our heart. Our response to stress naturally constricts our blood vessels and speeds our heart rate. We don’t want to be putting negative pressure on our heart on a regular basis, so be sure to take steps to manage your stress levels (including getting enough sleep to recharge).
Exercise is perhaps the single most important factor that you can take to strengthen your heart and cardiovascular system. Aerobic exercise (like walking, swimming, or cycling) is an excellent way to condition your heart (it is a muscle after all!). The Heart & Stroke Foundation recommends 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per week to maintain optimal cardiovascular health. The key is to find an activity you enjoy, or better yet, incorporate your exercise into your daily habits (brisk morning walk with the dog, cycling to work, etc.).
Lastly, eat the rainbow! Brightly coloured fruits and veggies are high in antioxidants that can help to repair damaged vessels, keep blood pressure low, and the heart strong. Some ancient wisdom tells us to focus on red coloured produce for optimal heart health (since its the colour of blood) and why not? Berries in your oatmeal and red peppers in your stir fry sounds easy enough.
Whether heart health is your top priority this year, we should all make caring for our cardiovascular system a regular part of our health routine. Better yet, continue the conversation with your loved ones and spread the word about how preventable heart disease truly is!
Dr. Laura Belus is a Naturopathic Doctor that focuses on detoxification and hormone balance for weight loss, stress management, and greater energy. She believes in making simple, yet powerful, changes to diet & lifestyle habits that create lasting results. She practices in Mississauga and Toronto.